The Senate has blocked the federal government’s proposed deregulation of universities for a second time, after Education Minister Christopher Pyne failed to win over crucial crossbenchers.
But Mr Pyne – who has nominated himself “a fixer” when it comes to education policy – has refused to bow to the upper house, vowing to push ahead with his plan to deregulate fees.
His scaled-back legislation failed 34 to 30 on Tuesday evening, with all but three opposition senators voting down the proposal.
The minister has promised to bring the reforms back before parliament, pledging to work with the crossbench and anyone who wanted to be part of a constructive discussion.
The Senate’s refusal to pass the Government’s Higher Education funding package will have long-lasting repercussions for students, and the Australian economy.
Group of Eight Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said it was “disappointing” the Senate voted down the legislation.
“It has been sad and depressing to see a legislative package so crucial to our nation’s future become a political football,” says Group of Eight Chief Executive Vicki Thomson.
“Many Senators acknowledge that the funding of our Universities is not sustainable. Noting this, it is disappointing that the Opposition and the cross benchers still refused to vote for the legislation.
Ms Thomson said the nation’s third largest export industry was being placed at risk. “Our quality is what makes us a student destination. Our quality is what makes our graduates sought after here and overseas. That quality cannot be maintained with current funding.
“The problem won’t go away. It will only get worse. The Higher Education sector must have a long-term sustainable solution to current funding problems. What we are left to manage is a broken system, one where there is a deregulated intake of students but a regulated fee structure and much reduced Government funding. It simply cannot work.”
“It is now important that alternatives which address the critical issues facing the sector and our students are considered by our political leaders,” said Ms Thomson.